The Link and Story Methods

Remembering a Simple List

Create a memorable story to help you remember information.

© iStockphoto/Lithande

The Link Method is one of the easiest mnemonic techniques available.

You use it by making simple associations between items in a list, linking them with a vivid image containing the items.

Taking the first image, create a connection between it and the next item (perhaps in your mind smashing them together, putting one on top of the other, or suchlike.) Then move on through the list linking each item with the next.

The Story Method is very similar, linking items together with a memorable story featuring them. The flow of the story and the strength of the images give you the cues for retrieval.

How to Use the Tools

It is quite possible to remember lists of words using association only. However it is often best to fit the associations into a story: Otherwise by forgetting just one association you can lose the whole of the rest of the list.

Given the fluid structure of this mnemonic (compared with the peg systems explained later in this section) it is important that the images stored in your mind are as vivid as possible. See the introduction to this section for further information on making images strong and memorable.

Where a word you want to remember does not trigger strong images, use a similar word that will remind you of that word.

Example

You may want to remember this list of counties in the South of England: Avon, Dorset, Somerset, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, and Surrey.

You could do this with two approaches, the Link Method and the Story Method:

Remembering With the Link Method

This would rely on a series of images coding information:

  • An AVON (Avon) lady knocking on a heavy oak DOoR (Dorset).
  • The DOoR opening to show a beautiful SuMmER landscape with a SETting sun (Somerset).
  • The setting sun shines down onto a field of CORN (Cornwall).
  • The CORN is so dry it is beginning to WILT (Wiltshire).
  • The WILTing stalks slowly droop onto the tail of the sleeping DEVil (Devon).
  • On the DEVil's horn a woman has impaled a GLOSsy (Gloucestershire) HAM (Hampshire) when she hit him over the head with it.
  • Now the Devil feels SoRRY (Surrey) he bothered her.

Note that there need not be any reason or underlying plot to the sequence of images: only images and the links between images are important.

Remembering With the Story Method

Alternatively you could code this information by imaging the following story vividly:

An AVON lady is walking up a path towards a strange house. She is hot and sweating slightly in the heat of high SUMMER (Somerset). Beside the path someone has planted giant CORN in a WALL (Cornwall), but it's beginning to WILT (Wiltshire) in the heat. She knocks on the DOoR (Dorset), which is opened by the DEVil (Devon).

In the background she can see a kitchen in which a servant is smearing honey on a HAM (Hampshire), making it GLOSsy (Gloucestershire) and gleam in bright sunlight streaming in through a window. Panicked by seeing the Devil, the Avon lady screams 'SoRRY' (Surrey), and dashes back down the path.

Key Points

The Link Method is probably the most basic memory technique, and is very easy to understand and use. It works by coding information to be remembered into images and then linking these images together

The story technique is very similar. It links these images together into a story. This helps to keep events in a logical order and can improve your ability to remember information if you forget the sequence of images.

Both techniques are very simple to learn. Unfortunately they are both slightly unreliable as it is easy to confuse the order of images or forget images from a sequence.

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